04 June 2009

Texas Legislative Failure - 81st Session Has Few Accomplishments

The 81st session of the Texas Legislature just ended with very few accomplishments.

Republicans, in search of a defining issue, tried to bully through a Voter ID bill which, in effect, would have disenfranchised older Texans, students, low-income people, i.e. Democrats. They failed due to a valiant effort by the legislature’s 74 Democrats to keep the measure from final consideration.

In retaliation, and in an obvious fit of pique, the Republican majority denied the CHIP expansion bill which would have delivered health care to 80,000 children and which would have made partially right the 2003 Republican bill that denied health care to 150,000 Texas kids.

But, they did approve a measure that penalizes teenagers who text and drive. And, they raised to age eight and height 4’9” the exemption for youth booster seats in automobiles. No duh! You can’t make up this stuff. Nowhere else but Texas.

Schoolteachers can look forward to getting a one-time $800 pay boost. They also approved an additional $2-billion for Texas schools over the next two years, exempted third graders from the TAKS test and allowed high school seniors to have more elective hours in their curriculum—how else will we have a pool of future legislators?

In a bit of laughable legerdemain they renamed state schools (residential and developmental facilities for adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities) to “state supported living centers”. At the same time they threw a few dollars ($112-million for five years) at the problem and scandal plagued system in order to add staff and security cameras.

On a positive note, the legislature did give the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association, which gives coverage to coastal residents who can’t get private insurance, the authority to issue ten-years bonds to recover losses after a hurricane.

But, worry not, there will be a second chapter as the Republicans left unresolved issues relating to TxDOT and the Texas Department of Insurance guaranteeing a special session where they’ll once again attempt to force the Voter ID bill.

Of course, think of the damage they might have wrought had they managed to accomplish something.

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